After speaking with Spencer Murphy via email about my project, he informed me that he knew of some Irish people in Birmingham that might be good contacts for me. He put me in touch with Tessie O’Darcy, who is married to Con O’Darcy, an Irish man living in Birmingham with his family. She is not Irish herself, but is obviously associated with that culture now. She told me about the St. Patrick’s day celebrations that occur every year in and around Digbeth and the city of Birmingham. She kindly invited me up to attend, so I organised a few days off work to document the parade and associated activities.
I arrived the night before the parade and stayed with a friend who is studying there. After an unexpected turn for the worst that night, I ended up in A&E so thought I would have to bail on the following day! Luckily, I made a sharp recovery and I was fit enough to continue with my project, and successfully documented the 100,000 people celebrations. It was crazy. There were people there of all ages and ethnicities, and although some were only there as an excuse for a p**s up, the overall atmosphere was welcoming, friendly and very positive, especially towards the Irish. The local pubs were packed, and I was told that the Irish Centre makes a loss throughout the year, but makes enough to keep them ticking over throughout that one week alone! I was not actually surprised by this from seeing the pub out of season and when there is not an event on. Only the locals and the regulars frequent it, and the occasional group of lads exploring the area who have strayed from the coach station cause a little bit of a stir.
The photographs that I made during this time were not what I expected, as things looked a little bit too ‘Irish’ for me, and the stereotypes were fuelled by large inflatable Leprechauns, garish green leggings and copious amounts of Guiness being consumed by slightly overweight, middle-aged men. However, I had I fantastic time and people were very welcoming of my presence, making for some interesting and successful environmental portraits. There were many characters to photograph, and I hope I show them in their best light in my work. I will be going back again next year!